If I say, "I don't have a good memory of my childhood", would it imply that I cant recollect it or that I have bad memories (bad stories, unhappy) childhood?

I think that "good memories" implies the latter and "a good memory" implies the former. Is it correct?

  • In broader sense your interpretation is correct. Thus the suggestions from Barrie and SF are very useful and help in taking away the ambiguity from the sentence. – Sameer Patil Oct 10 '12 at 13:54

I don't have a good memory of my childhood is possible, but I think it's quite an unlikely sentence for a native speaker to produce. If the speaker has an imperfect recollection, then it might be something like I don’t remember my childhood very well. On the other hand, I have good memories of my childhood would, as you suggest, mean that the childhood was a happy one, just as I have bad memories of my childhood would mean that it was the opposite.

  • I have to disagree with the very first sentence of your answer. I agree with it in the sense that one wouldn't "produce" that sentence when speaking of "imperfect recollections", however one would and could use that sentence when speaking of a bad childhood. (I'm just stating this because your first sentence is slightly misleading. For what OP is asking, it isn't the correct sentence, but I don't think generally speaking, it is okay for you to imply that it is a sentence a native speaker wouldn't ever use.) – Souta Oct 10 '12 at 14:13

There are several different meanings for the word memory, which can lead to ambiguity. Two of these are

  1. the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information: I’ve a great memory for faces
    the mind regarded as a store of things remembered:
    he searched his memory frantically for an answer
  2. something remembered from the past:
    one of my earliest memories is of sitting on his knee

When you say good memory, it is not clear as to whether you are referring to the effective quality of your recall faculty (meaning 1) or the affective quality of what is being recalled (meaning 2).

When you use the plural form, memories, the second meaning is clear since the first meaning is almost always singular.

If you wish to convey a high level of recall, I would suggest one of the following alternatives:

I have good recollection of my childhood.
I have a clear memory of my childhood.


The answer is inside your brain. It helps you remember things. Memories are like for example, a container. Memories are things we put in our container, they can be cold memories, good memories, sad memories, etc... Like for example I did something wrong to my friend so I went up to her and said sorry and she just looked at me and said, "Oh well, that was a cold memory." That hurt my feelings.

  • I don't have a single good memory of my childhood
  • I don't have any good memories of my childhood

implies bad childhood

  • I don't have a good memory of my childhood

implies forgetting it.

  • 3
    -1 I don't think that the third sentence is particularly natural or idiomatic for native speakers of English, and Barrie's answer supports my feeling. I get the feeling, after reading many of your answers and comments, that you aren't a native speaker of English, but that you moved to an Anglophone country when you were about 6 years old and learned much more about English than most of the natives. Your 3rd sentence is somewhat like the infamous shibboleth. – user21497 Oct 10 '12 at 12:45
  • @Bill: Thanks, although I never lived in any Anglophone country. :) Still, I strive to improve my English and critique of my answers where my understanding of it is wrong is definitely helping. – SF. Oct 10 '12 at 16:25
  • Your English is very, very good. Keep up the good work! – user21497 Oct 10 '12 at 16:29

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